Do you Believe in the Son of Man?


Preached by The Reverend G. Alex Martin on 4th Sunday of Lent (Sunday, March 26, 2017)



  “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” And of course, Jesus answers, “Neither…he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” Jesus wastes no time in disposing of the very ancient idea that illness, or any misfortune, is punishment for misdeeds, our own or our ancestors’. God’s work in this story is the giving of physical sight to the blind man. It is the counterpart to the spiritual sight which he already has. And God’s work is revealed in all of us, as we mature physically and spiritually.


We are all born blind. We have physical sight, most of us, at birth, but spiritual sight is acquired gradually, and, in fact, we learn how to use physical sight gradually too. By experiment and example, by teaching and repetition, by trial and error, we learn to see. And so it is with spiritual sight. But the remarkable thing about the newly-sighted man in today’s story, is that he already has spiritual sight, which becomes apparent by the end of the story. His physical condition did not prevent him from acquiring spiritual sight long before he received physical sight.


    Jesus does not have to do much to strengthen the formerly blind man’s spiritual vision. The physical details are irrelevant to the main point of the story, even though the Pharisees make much of them. The Pharisees in fact want to distract themselves and everyone else from seeing the light, by concentrating on the technique and timing of the healing.


    The behavior of the Pharisees is a step-by-step demonstration in How To Miss The Point. They ask how the blind man received his sight. How. They express no interest in the fact of his being sighted. They’re interested only in technique. Next, they talk about when he received his sight. When. The timing concerns them, not, again, the fact of his being sighted. Then, it turns out that they do not believe that he was ever blind at all. They reluctantly get around to accepting the reality only when the testimony of a lot of people leaves them no other conclusion. So, dithering about technique and timing, and evading the fact right in front of them, lead the Pharisees to abuse the newly-sighted man, and they send him away. “Drove him out,” the text says, presumably out of the synagogue. The Pharisees refuse to allow physical and spiritual reality to get in their way. Their way is nothing more than the mindless upholding of traditional rules, without regard for spiritual reality, or even physical reality.


    “Jesus heard that they had driven him out,” the text says, so Jesus went looking for him. And he went looking for him, the newly-sighted man, to test his spiritual sight. And he tests it in the classical way of every genuine spiritual teacher: he asks the man a question. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Lord, I believe,” he said. The newly-sighted man sees spiritual reality before him, the reality in which he believed before he received his sight, and which he defended before the Pharisees. It is almost as though he received physical sight as a result of his spiritual sight. His spiritual sight was the condition that made his physical sight possible. In other words, his perception of spiritual reality came before his physical perception, and enabled him to see reality whole, as spiritual and physical together, in the person of Jesus, the incarnate Lord, human and divine.


  Who are we in this story? Do we evade spiritual reality, like the Pharisees, by fussing about irrelevant questions of detail and technique and timing? Do we lose sight of the main point by hanging on to traditional ways of seeing things? Do we avoid the spiritual reality in front of us, whatever the physical situation may be?


    Or do we, like the blind man, see the physical world in spiritual terms? Do we have the faith that makes that combined vision possible? How do we answer the question, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”